Parent Use of the OWL (Wait Time Strategy)


Speech Pathologists and other service providers are often complimented by parents as being “patient” in their work with the pediatric population. It is said that having patience (by maintaining a reduced pace or giving adequate wait time to children) is not only a virtue but also a necessary skill for interacting with young children. Many parents might find it challenging to provide this wait time when interacting with their children as it can feel forced and time consuming in our busy day to day lives. However, implementing use of pausing, silence, and delayed response tactics are important traits of strong communication partnering that all children need.

This wait time strategy, often referred to as The OWL strategy (Observe, Wait, Listen) is a highly regarded strategy in conversational skill-building, play narration, and verbal expression and can help promote a child’s overall use of initiation to meet their wants and needs. It is said that in implementing the OWL strategy, adults can learn the most about children as they relent control, become observers more than leaders, and listeners more than speakers. By giving even 5-10 seconds of wait time, children with language processing and expression challenges are given the time they need to better understand their environment, formulate their thoughts, and take the lead when interacting with others. In other words, when it doubt, “waiting it out” can be one of the best ways for children to show what they can do.

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